December 5th, 2014
In its obituary for sports journalist Howard Cosell, the New York Times described summed up his career and the influence he had had on sports coverage:”He entered sports broadcasting in the mid-1950s, when the predominant style was unabashed adulation, [and] offered a brassy counterpoint that was first ridiculed, then copied until it became the dominant note of sports broadcasting.”
With “Howard Cosell”, Mark Ribowsky has written an in-depth biography of the much-maligned sportscaster. Cosell said of himself, “Arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, verbose, a showoff. I have been called all of these. Of course, I am.” Still, Cosell is not just remembered for being loud and obnoxious, but also for daring to ask questions and taking a stance when other people wouldn’t. Cosell, that alreadye had a special relationship with Muhammed Ali when he still fought under his birth name, was one of the only public voiced to support Ali when he refused, on religious grounds, to take part in the U.S. Army during the war in Vietnam. During his career, Cosell continued to speak out on social issues, such as racism, anti-Semitism and alcoholism.
Still, the biography is no glorification. Cosell is often portrayed as an egotistical, highly unpleasant, and insecure individual. Someone who was critical and that changed sports broadcoasting in many ways, but who himself was also guilty of practicing soft, sometimes even lazy journalism, especially towards the end of his career.
Image via Sportsillustrated
Credits: Lane Stewart
Howard Cosell is available in the UA Library